(This post has nothing to do with the Kalmar Nyckle, btw -- just couldn't think of a good picture to use...)
(This post has nothing to do with the Kalmar Nyckle, btw -- just couldn't think of a good picture to use...)
Raya spent four months in 2004 interviewing 110 women, primarily EQ players, about their experiences in mogs. It's a nine-part series, should be interesting. Figuring out what exactly is 'pink' about online gaming - maybe nothing - is not easy. Are most women online gamers involved in digital recreations of face-to-face gaming (spades, euchre, literati)? What are the implications?
Thanks Oloh, aka Don Shelkey of Silky Venom, for the tip.
I've got a lot of thoughts sparked by DiGRA coming, including a long meditation on the dreaded ludology-narratology thing, but first I wanted to mention an interesting sub-theme I noticed weaving its way through the conference: emergence, complex systems, non-human agency, network theory and related topics. Nicholas Glean dealt centrally with these issues. I understand Seth Giddings as also being engaged on these topics, though I missed his paper presentation. I caught a number of other mentions or invocations of these concepts. Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern's Facade (their presentation on it was one of the highlights of the meeting for me) also clearly is a case of emergence, even if they don't explicitly see it as such.
My own paper dealt with the same issues. A draft is available at my blog. I've fiddled with it some since then.
One thing that I think is important about the general suite of concepts under this heading is that they can be painfully vague or misleading in the wrong hands, or just marketing hype. But in the context of games, at the very least, emergence is a technique for creating the psychologically convincing simulation of life or intentionality. There is clearly a deep mental algorithim that human beings use to sort life and non-life that agent-based emergent systems do a pretty good job of tapping into.
I think there's even more to the concept that's relevant to games, and especially persistent virtual world games. But I'll leave that for the full paper. I do think it's an important concept for game scholars to consider, and consider well.
Several Terra Novans (Ted, TL, Cory, Dmitri, and I) have descended on Madison, Wisconsin for the Games, Learning, and Society conference organized by Constance and guided by the James Gee mafia of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As the title suggests, the focus is mostly on games in education. Below are notes from the first panel I went to, featuring Henry Jenkins and James Gee. (Updated 6/24 -- added notes from PARC PlayOn guys. Added Social Effects / Addiction.)
Frequent poster and Online Alchemy CEO Mike Sellers sends this report on recent developments in the multiplayer online game (mog) market:
"Last week, Blizzard announced WoW now has over 2 million subscribers. And this doesn't count China, where they've just opened up. They report having over 500,000 concurrent users in China during their open beta.
On the same day, rumors (later confirmed) abounded that Monolith had sold The Matrix Online to SOE. Twenty-six people on the team were given offers to go to San Diego, the rest were out of jobs. The future of Monolith in the wake of this, not to mention the entire market, appears uncertain. "
Are graphical digital worlds just text worlds with pretty graphics? After all, people get all excited about sales of virtual items, weddings, stalking, gender bending, and governance, yet all of these behaviors happened in earlier text-based worlds and were probably discussed on MUD-Dev in 1997. Several of these comments touch on this topic in the context that creativity in Second Life is no different than MOOs, so I wanted to put a stake in the ground and then duck and cover:
Physically simulated 3D worlds are fundamentally different from text worlds.
Read on for why
The first, "Evolving Nemo", details the creation of evolving AI creatures within Second Life. While boids and genetic algorithms built on top of SL's scripting language are interesting, what pushes this effort over the top is the use of shared code and standards within SL's ALife group.
The second, "Grinding the World" covers the exploits of residents determined to ride skateboards all over Second Life. What sets this effort apart from previous attempts is that they've actually built a board that's fun to ride (and shot a video to show what it can do). It certainly isn't THUG 2 yet, but there is something magical about grinding a 30 meter tall replica of Tin Tin's rocket with a group of friends!
It's amazing what SL's residents make as they combine community, creation, and markets with a pinch of physics and scripting.
Given that the virtual worlds we spend 20 hours a week in are able to keep track of everything we do in them, there's a gold-mine of social science data (personality, social networks, etc.) that's being accumulated. It's a pity that it's so hard to get access to aggregate server-side data. This is changing though with games like World of Warcraft that allow third-party census mods. But so far, most census mods have only served to provide snapshot data.
Several researchers at PARC (who I'm working with this summer) have devised an automated system that cycles through 3 servers for both Alliance and Horde and performs a census about every 16 minutes. This longitudinal data provides a way to answer far more interesting questions that the static data is unable to. For example:
We will answer these questions and many more at our new PlayOn Blog. We hope you come join us in interpreting and playing with the data. We will have new entries each day this coming week.
Terra Novans descend on Vancouver tomorrow for DiGRA 2005, Changing Views: Worlds in Play. As you can see from the program, TL Taylor will be kicking off four days of hundreds of videogame-related papers with a keynote address (w00t!). The other big news, though, is that many of the hundreds of papers are now available in full-text form online.
Games and aggression have been a hotbutton item for years, and the controversy isn't going away any time soon. Some of it is fueled by conservative paranoia and some by justifiable parental angst. Nevertheless, as Richard pointed out recently, it doesn't mean that the questions are automatically without merit. So I give you this to chew on--a study of gaming and violence that specifically tested an MMOG, did it out of a lab and used a control group:
I took a header off my bike earlier this week, but luckily I was traveling at speed on blacktop and my face broke my fall.
This resulted in a couple of new developments in my life: some pleasantly-unflappable surgeons kindly sewed my lips back on me, and then they introduced me to Percoset (aka ocycodone). I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this drug. But that is for another day.
The combination of the drug-induced reverie, large amounts of time recuperating in bed wondering whether I will always speak like Sylvester Stallone, and the facial damage naturally got me thinking about what everyone thinks about in these situations: yes, instanced worlds and the films "Abre los Ojos" & "Vanilla Sky".
This year's AIIDE (Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment) conference seems to have been quite the show. We're fortunate that around the web some very fine people have gone to the trouble to document what happened in detail and with keen insight ( Andrew Stern: , Michael Mateus: , Robin Hunicke: ). Others? ...
I’ve been asked to introduce myself with a short bio. You’ve been warned.
Most of you either know me or know of me; surviving nineteen
years with an opinion in this veil of tears known as the multiplayer online
game industry can have that effect. I’ve
been variously described as a pioneer of the industry, an ill-tempered harridan
that bites the hand that feeds her and – my personal favorite – “that
goat-blowing bitch.” Well, everyone
needs a hobby, I guess.
Where did it all begin, you ask? I started out as a third assistant to an assistant of the assistant file librarian on GEnie’s Apple II RoundTable in 1986, played Stellar Warrior from Kesmai in beta test that same year and, with eighty of us blasting away at each other and my hands literally shaking from the tension of successfully defending a planet with a crippled laser cruiser, decided on the spot to change careers. Along the way, I’ve managed to fill just about every rung on the ladder in the development and publishing of these things, spoken at more conferences than I can remember, co-authored a book about developing online games and spent six years writing a rant column to point out the flaws in the industry and, maybe, improve things a bit. I’ve had my successes and failures, learned something from each… Basically, I was fortunate to have snuck in early, when no one was looking and before the publishers threw so much money at the industry that the bar to entry has become stratospheric for most.
And from that vantage point of 19 years gone, involvement in some capacity with over a dozen MMOs and uncounted other types of online games under my belt (or skirt, as the case may be), I raise a question about the height of that bar:
Is money killing this industry?
Reminiscent of Marvel v. NCSoft, but just without the lawsuit, Katie Dean writes for Wired about how players in SWG don't have the freedom to play virtual instruments because IP makes that possibility too dangerous for Sony Online:
As musicians, the characters play pretend, virtual instruments like the slitherhorn, ommni box or the nalargon, but are limited to a handful of canned tunes. Lawyers at Sony Online Entertainment and LucasArts envision a legal nightmare if musicians were to re-create music copyrighted in the physical world.
"If we allowed someone to play anything they want, they could play a song by Madonna and then we'd have licensing issues," said Julio Torres, a producer for Star Wars Galaxies at LucasArts. "We don't want to give them the option to try, because the bottom line is, if we open that gate, they will go through it," he said.
My friend Eric Goldman gets quoted on the legal issues. As to my personal thoughts about all this, I'm again with Fred -- this is a problem that needs a solution.
We couldn't be more pleased to announce that Jessica Mulligan--yes, the Jessica Mulligan--is joining Terra Nova. There is so much that we could say about her, but we'll let her introduce herself in her own words.
But on behalf of all the Terra Novans, welcome Jessica!
I’ve posted a new paper about member developed business brands in There and Second Life to SSRN, available for download here. This is something that grew out of last year’s more general Advertising & Branding in Social Virtual Worlds project, this time focusing on four “DIY” brands developed by members themselves.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in MMOGs is a hot topic on Terra Nova this week. Let us introduce a parallel discussion. Damion Schubert ("You Don't Want Realistic AI") and Jamie Fristrom ("Manifesto Thingy") banter a fresh insight on an observation made many times (e.g. lately in these comments): namely that MMOG AI is for the most part simplified because it needs to be a player solvable puzzle.